Road Trip to Arches National Park

Arches National Park Utah #windowarchhike

Family Friendly Arches National Park #windowarchhikeArches National Park, one of many National Parks we visited in Utah, was also the furthest and most challenging drive of our two week road trip. That was partly due to our decision to take Scenic Byway 12 from Bryce Canyon to Moab, home of Arches National Park. The drive proved to be more of an adventure than I planned on, and to say that I was nervous while driving on the extremely steep and winding road would be the understatement of the century. Petrified would probably be a more accurate description.

 

Utah has some of the most diverse landscape I’ve ever seen, and once I was able to look up again, I was amazed at all the different types of terain we drove through.

 

The Road to Arches National Park

Goblin State Park Utah #goblinstatepark
Goblins standing sentry at Goblin State Park

Although the road to Arches felt long, we made stops at both Capital Reef National Park, and Goblin Valley State Park, which helped to break up the very curvy drive. Temperatures were well over 100 degrees, so our visits were on the quick side.

Capital Reef National Park

Capital Reef National Park #capitalreefnationalparkCapital Reef National Park is one of Utah’s Mighty 5, however it is the most underrated of all the parks. Many people I spoke with consider it their favorite of all the parks, they love having the place all to themselves.

 

The Capital Reef Visitor Center is located along HWY Route 24, and after a quick look around we drove a short distance down the road to see the Freemont Indian Pictographs, which date back to between 700 AD – 1300 AD. Parking and a convient walking path make viewing the pictographs a very family friendly activity.

Capital Reef National Reef #Pictographs

 

Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin State Park #goblinstatepark

Recommended by a friend we made stopping at Goblin Valley State Park a priority, however in hindsight I realized I should have timed this visit for either sunrise or sunset. Because our visit took place mid-day, temperatures were extremely high, there was no shade and the harsh lighting meant a very abbreviated visit.

Goblin State Park #goblinstatepark

It was sot hot, my boys wouldn’t leave the car’s airconditioning, but I was here and didn’t want to pass up an oppotunity to walk among the hoodoos or “goblins”, which are the main attraction at Goblin State Park.

 

Arches National Park

Arches National Park #turretarch
The Turret Arch

Arches National Park is home to the largest concentration of natural arches in the world. The most famous of which is the Delicate Arch, which also happens to be on the Utah State Liscense Plate.

Arches National Park #utahliscenseplate
This liscense plate has been retired and was for sale in a gift shop.

I admit I underestimated  the time it would take to drive to Arches so our time in the park was limited. We would just be getting a taste of what this park had to offer. For example this Utah liscense plate was the only way I would be seeing the famous Delicate Arch.

Visitor Center

 

As always our first stop was the visitor center. We watched a movie about the Park’s unique landscape, viewed interactive exhibits, consulted with the rangers, and of course vistied the gift shop!

Arches National Park Utah #windowarchhike
The Window Arches from a distance

Knowing that our group wasn’t up for moderate or difficult hiking in the extreme heat we chose to view the park via two easier walks, and the many pull ins along the Park’s main road.

The Windows – Easy

Arches National Park Utah #thewindowsarch

This wasn’t our first stop within the park, but it was my favorite. A quick and relatively flat walk, and we were able to explore The Windows and see amazing views without too much effort. We all loved this walk, and sitting under the shade of the giant Window Arches helped us get a feel for just how massive these formations really are. This is perfect walk if you have limited time in the Park.

Arches National Park Utah #windowsarches
View from The Windows

 

 

Balanced Rock – Easy

Arches National Park Utah #balancedrock

Balanced Rock, as you can see isn’t an arch, but it certainly is impressive. It’s hard to get a sense of scale when looking at photos, but if you look closely you’ll see tiny people among the rocks. The Rock can easily be seen from the parking area or there is a short walk around as well.

 

The Courthouse View Point

Arches National Park Utah #courthouseview

 

The Gossip Ladies – View Point

Arches National Park Utah #gossipladies

Zax’s Pizza

Arches National Park Utah #zaxspizzaA casual pizza restaurant with unique and delicious toppings and great service, Zax’s wasn’t the only meal we ate while in Moab, but it was our favorite! Don’t just take my word for it, Zax’s came highly recommended by just about every person I spoke to when discussing our trip to Moab, and now I’ve joined the club!  I wish my photos were better, but I was too busy eating to take many pictures…

Arches National Park Utah #zaxspizza
The Honey Chicken Pizza was SO good!

Tips & Advice:

Arches National Park Utah #southwindow

  • There wasn’t much shade and it was 104 during our visit. Bring water! Yes, I know I should be wearing a hat.
  • Be aware and heed all signs. People do die here, often people who don’t heed signs.
  • Keep in mind that many of the more famous hikes are moderate to difficult for example Delicate Arch is considered difficult.
  • Many of the park’s sights can be seen from the car, and or convenient lookout points.
  • Automobile Lines to get into Arches National Park can be long, so plan to arrive early if possible. You’ll beat the lines and the heat!
  • Once you leave the Visitor Center there are no facilities of any kind inside the park.

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Family Activities Arches National Park #archesnationalpark  Capital Reef National Park #capitalreef  Goblin Valley State Park #goblinvalley 

Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park Day & Night

Bryce Canyon National Park with kids #BryceCanyon

Bryce Canyon with Kids #sunsetpoint #BryceCanyonBryce Canyon National Park, was just one of many National and State parks we spent time in during our visit to Utah. In fact we visited four National Parks, one State Park, and a Tribal Park. If the number of photos I took are any indication, Bryce Canyon was a favorite!

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #sunrisepoint

That could be due to its higher elevations and cooler temperatures, which made Bryce Canyon a welcome respite from the extreme heat of our previous stops in Zion and Las Vegas.

Bryce Canyon National Park #hoodoo

We enjoyed hiking through unique and alien landscapes by day, and explored the night sky, and it’s many wonders, under it’s famously dark skies by night.

Bryce Canyon National Park #astrophotography
The Milky Way!

Getting There

Bryce Canyon National Park #roadtriputah

At around 80 miles the scenic drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is a very manageable distance, however the road can at times be curvy, steep and narrow or all three at once, and if you’re me, that can make for slow going.

Bryce Canyon National Park #utahroadtrip

Other times, the road seems to stretch out in front of you for what feels like forever, and it was during one of those stretches that I saw something in the distance. What is that large and strange looking formation?

The Rock Stop!

The Rock Shop Orderville Utah #therockstop

Having previously read about The Rock Stop, we decided to stop and take a look around! As it turns out we were far from the only ones! People come from around the world to visit the Wonders of Utah, and it turns out The Rock Stop is one of them.

Oderer Utah The Rock Stop Utah

This turned out to be a perfect place to stretch our legs and grab a drink and a snack. We even picked up a souvenir or two!

Bryce Canyon National Park By Day

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #queensgardentrail

If, like us, you have limited time in the Park, consider making the visitor center your first stop. While there, you can learn about the park, pick up a park map, and speak with the Park Rangers about what might be the best experience for your group’s needs.

Mossy Cave Trail – Easy

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The Mossy Cave trail includes close up views of the Park’s famous hoodoos, the mossy cave, and a waterfall. At just under one mile roundtrip Mossy Cave Trail is a perfect hike for all ages and fitness levels. This hike includes parking and services.

The Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden Combination Trail – Moderate

Bryce Canyon National Park #thorshammer
You’ll see “Thor’s Hammer” on the Navajo Loop Trail

One of the Park’s most popular hikes, The Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden Combination Trail, is a perfect hike if you want to get a taste of what Bryce Canyon has to offer, but don’t have a lot of time in the Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The hike is a loop and starts at Sunset point. For safety the NPS park service recommends walking .4 miles along the canyon’s rim to Sunrise point where you follow the Queens Garden Trail down into the canyon. Whoops we did just the opposite.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Whoops, we went the hard way!

The hike took us around three hours, contains 300+ feet of elevation and includes some very steep drop offs. The views from above the canyon were stunning, but I also loved walking among the Park’s famous hoodoos. You can see more photos from this amazing hike at the end of the post!

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

We took our time and along the way enjoyed some light rain, the unique landscape, and the many chipmunks!

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park By Night

Dark Ranger Telescope Tours #astrophotography

Dark Rangers Telescope Tour

Dark Ranger Telescope Tours #astrophotographyIf Bryce Canyon was one of my favorite places, then The Dark Rangers Telescope Tour was my favorite activity of the entire trip! It’s been a dream of mine to photograph the night sky, specifically the Milky Way, and Bryce Canyon’s remote location makes it the perfect place to fulfill this dream. My sons both love science making this a wonderful family activity!

I discovered Dark Rangers Telescope Tours while researching the Park’s official site, and I can’t say enough about our experience. Our evening with Kevin Poe, a local park ranger, and astronomer, was perfect from start to finish.

Dark Ranger Telescope Tours #astrophotography

We met Kevin at his observatory, and spent three hours learning about and exploring the night sky. We saw Saturn and Jupiter, a swan nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, Vega, star clusters, exploded stars and more. It was truly amazing!

Not only that, but I got a lesson in astrophotography, and night vision! Did you know that red is the only color light that allows your vision to stay in night mode?

Tips & Advice:

Bryce Canyon National Park #steeptrails

  • Are you traveling with a Senior Citizen or a 4th Grader? That’s good news! Seniors can purchase a lifetime National Park Pass for $80 with access to over 2000 locations, and their companions will be able to enter along with them for free.
  • Fourth grade students and their families can enter National parks for free with the Every Kid in A Park Pass. Sign up on line, print out the temporary pass, and redeem it for your permanent card when you visit your first park!

Bryce Canyon National Park #everykidinapark

  • Bryce Canyon City is located just outside the park. Food, lodging and free parking can be found here.

 

  • Cars are allowed in Bryce Canyon National Park, but I highly recommend taking advantage of the free parking in Bryce Canyon City and using the park shuttle.
  • The Visitor Center is the first stop inside the park.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #visitorcenter

  • Watch your step and look where you’re going. There are many drop offs and very few protective measures in place, we saw a little baby slip and he almost fell. Really! The daddy caught him at the last second when I gasped!

Bryce Canyon National Park #warning

  • If you’re interested in astrophotography book your tour with the Dark Rangers in advance and you may be able to connect your camera directly to the telescopes.
  • There are a variety of tours available, however I wanted to include astrophotography, so chose a private tour.

Photo Gallery:

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #sunrisepoint
We finished the hike at Sunrise Point.
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Trees adapt to the unique terrain.
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #queensgardentrail
Steep drop offs mean: Watch your step!
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
The landscape was like nothing I’d ever seen.

Bryce Canyon National Park UtahBryce Canyon National Park UtahBryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Navajo Loop Trail
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
View from Sunrise Point
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #sunsetbrycecanyon
Tropic, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park

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Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #astrophotography #familyfriendlyhiking

Family Friendly Hiking in Zion National Park

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalparkDid you know that over 4 million people visit Zion National Park every year? This summer we decided to join the masses and see what all the fuss is about. Part of a larger loop, Zion National Park was our second stop, which included stops in Nevada, Utah and Arizona, over the course of two weeks.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

Located in Springdale, Utah, Zion is a very manageable 2.5 or 3-hour drive from Las Vegas (our first stop). We arrived in the mid-afternoon and there was plenty of daylight left, so we went straight to the Park.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
We completed two “hikes” this was taken on the Riverside Walk.

There are many walks and hikes of varying lengths and difficulties. We chose “hikes” that would suit everyone in our group, which was made up of all ages and fitness levels. Strenuous or more challenging hikes weren’t ever on our agenda, however with temperatures soaring into the hundreds even the easiest hikes can feel challenging.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
Along the Lower Emerald Pools walk.

During our visit we completed two hikes, both of which were paved and felt more like walks, and both would be suitable for all ages, The River Walk, which leads to The Narrows, and the Lower Emerald Pools Walk. During our visit we saw wild turkeys and their babies, countless squirrels, and many deer.

The Riverside Walk (Shuttle Stop 9)

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

The Riverside walk is an easy 2.2-mile paved path, which follows alongside the Virgin River. This is also the access point for one of the Park’s most popular hikes, The Narrows, a strenuous 8+ hour, 9.4 mile hike through the river.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
This is where the Riverside Walk ends and The Narrows hike begins.

The Riverside walk was perfect compromise for our group! We saw wildlife, hanging gardens, and cooled off by dipping our feet in the river. We felt like we got a small taste of the Park and even saw the famous Narrows!

The Lower Emerald Pools Trail (Shuttle stop 5)

Zion National Park Utah
Much of the Lower Emerald Pools trail is without shade.

The Emerald Pools Trail consists of three parts. Parts two and three are more strenuous, with a moderate rating, while part one The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is listed as easy, making it a perfect choice for our second walk in the Park.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
Standing under the waterfall was a welcome reward!

The 1.2-mile trail is paved and leads to a waterfall, which is a very rewarding end to this 1-hour walk with a slight elevation and limited shade.

Once you reach the waterfall you can continue on and complete the entire Emerald Pools trail, or like us, you can turn around and head back. Keep in mind there are some very steep drop offs. If you look carefully at the photos below you can spot some tiny people up on the ledge, which is located just above the waterfall where we ended our walk!

With temperatures well over 100 degrees, not everyone in our group wanted to participate, so we dropped them at the Zion Lodge, a lovely place to take a break and relax. If you’re looking for a souvenir there is a lovely gift shop inside as well. You know I stopped there!

Navigating within Zion:

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalparkIt’s important to note that vehicles aren’t allowed within Zion National Park. The Park Service operates a free shuttle bus, which takes visitors throughout the Park, stopping at 9 different designated stops starting at the Visitor Center and ending at stop 9 The Temple of Sinawava. The ride takes about 40 minutes from start to finish, and its not only incredibly scenic, but informative as well. Shuttles come about every 10 minutes*.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
Waiting for the shuttle outside our hotel The Desert Pearl Inn.

As I mentioned above, 4 million people visit Zion every year, so you can imagine that at times the park will be very crowded. Because the shuttles are the only way into the park consider arriving on the earlier side, or at off times to keep your wait times down.

For example, our wait time in the late afternoon was nonexistent, but on our second day we attempted to ride during a peak time, and we were met with an hour + line, just to get on board. After all that waiting we still had to contend with multiple shuttle stops, a long hot ride and 108-degree temperatures. An earlier start might have saved us as much as two hours!

Practical Information:

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalparkZion is an oasis in the desert, but it is still a desert. Bring water everywhere. I really can’t stress this enough. It’s important to bring enough water for everyone in your group. Temperatures can and do reach well over 100 degrees.

Accommodations:

Desert Pearl Inn Zion National Park with Kids #Zion
View of the pool from our room’s balcony

I admit I didn’t research accommodations in Zion, I didn’t have to! My fellow blogger, Oregon Girl around the World, suggested The Desert Pearl Inn, and we couldn’t have been more pleased! However, we weren’t the only ones happy with this choice, it was completely booked, so planning ahead is a good idea.

SAMSUNG CSC
This is the view of the Park from the front door of our room.

The property is conveniently located within walking distance to the Park’s entrance,  but if you prefer a ride there is a separate town shuttle which stops right out front of the Inn.

The service, pool and grounds were all lovely. The room was spacious, the beds were comfortable, and even with a full kitchen two double beds and a sitting area our group of five had plenty of room to spread out.

Tips & Advice:

Zion National Park with Kids #zion

  • Check the weather and possibilty of flash flooding before you go, especially for The Narrows.
  • Bring lots of water and snacks for everyone in your group.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, hats, and shoes.
  • Heed the signs. People have died on these trails, and many more have been injured, or suffered heat related illness.
  • The Visitor Center doesn’t sell food or drinks, but there is a little grocery just outside the park gate.

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Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

Postcards from The American Southwest

Family Road Trip American Southwest

Historic Route 66 Seligman Arizona American Flag painting

My boys, and I* have been road tripping through the American Southwest these past two weeks, which means I’ve been out gathering a ton of fun information to share with all of you, but haven’t had time to write about it in detail yet! I thought it might be fun to give you a sneak peak at some of the amazing things we’ve experienced during this summer’s adventure, all of which I plan to write about in more detail in the near future!

Capital Reef National Park Postcard Utah

Capital Reef National Park Postcard Utah

Dear Faithful Reader,

Don’t you just love receiving mail! I do! We’ve been having quite a summer exploring Nevada, Utah and Arizona! It’s been so hot out and we’ve been doing a lot of driving! The USA is a vast and unique place!! Here is a little sneak peak of our Southwestern Adventures!

xo, hilary

Next stop… The American Southwest!


Road trip with Kids Southwest USA

Road Trip with Kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

No road trip would be complete without long stretches of endless road. We saw this sign from the road, but when we pulled off to explore further, things weren’t quite what they seemed. Snapped a few picks, but didn’t hang around long…

xo, hilary

Next stop… Las Vegas, Nevada!


Las Vegas Nevada with Kids

Las Vegas with kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

Las Vegas with kids wasn’t something I’d ever planned on… I’ll be writing more about our experiences there, but I think I’m going with my first instincts on this one.

xo, hilary

Next stop… Zion National Park!


Zion National Park Utah

Zion National Park with kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

Zion National Park has hikes and walks which are suitable for all ages! We did both the Emerald Pools hike and the River Walk!

We saw waterfalls and a tons of wildlife! It was 108 degrees, so dipping our toes into the river at the end of the walk was a welcome reward!!

xo, hilary

Next stop… Bryce Canyon National Park!


The Rock Shop Orderville Utah

The Rock Stop Orderville Utah Road trip with kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

We saw this strange object from a distance and wondered… what is that?! Turns out it was the Rock Stop! There are so many of these shops, but this is the only one we saw that was actually in the shape of a rock!

We just had to stop!!

xo, hilary

Next stop really is… Bryce Canyon National Park!


SAMSUNG CSC

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Dear Faithful Reader,

After high temperatures in the 100s for days on end, the cooler temperatures in Bryce Canyon were a welcome reprieve!!

We did a moderate hike through the hoodoos. There were even a few raindrops! It was a steep climb back up, but so worth it!

xo, hilary

The next stop… Arches Capital Reef National Park!


Quick Stops at Capital Reef National Park and Goblin Valley State Park

Capital Reef National Park Utah

Capital Reef Postcard Back

Dear Faithful Reader,

Have you heard of Capital Reef?

Although it doesn’t get as much press it’s pretty beautiful! Many people say it’s their favorite due to low crowds… we saw some petroglyphs that were 2500 years old!

xo, hilary

The Next stop… Arches National Park Goblin Valley State Park!


Goblin Valley State Park Utah

Goblin Valley Postcard back

Dear Faithful Reader,

The road from Bryce Canyon to Arches was so LONG….!
We took Scenic HWY 12, which was probably my LEAST favorite road ever!
It was beautiful, but so curvy!!!
We stopped at Goblin Valley State Park
for a stretch and a rest

The valley is filled with hoodoos, which one can walk among… it was hot hot hot!
Evning might have been a better choice…

xo, hilary

Next stop… Arches National Park!



Arches National Park with kids

Arches National Park Utah with Kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

I was surprised by how impressed I was by the arches! Does that sound silly?

Unfortunately, the hike to the famous Delicate Arch was in the difficult category, but there are a number of family friendly walks and viewpoints throughout the park!

xo, hilary

The Next Stop… Mexican hat!


Mexican hat Utah Forrest Gump

Mexican Hat HWY 163 Forrest Gump Stop Utah

Dear Faithful Reader,

After a few days in Moab, it was to head to our next stop: Monument Valley! This is the stop that starte it all, but I’ll save that story for a future post!!

The drive from Arches to Monument Valley isn’t too long, so wedidn’t stop along the way except to snap a pic of Mexican Hat Rock and to see the Forrest Gump movie sign!

xo, hilary

Next stop… Monument Valley! Finally!


Monument Valley Sunrise Utah

Monumnet Valley Utah Sunrise

Dear Faithful Reader,

We all loved our visit to Monument Valley! There so much history in this beautiful place!

We had hoped for some stargazing and to see the sunset over the magnificent valley, but instead were treated to quite a summer storm, complete with lightning, rainbows, and hail!

All was not lost… I set my alarm for sunrise and was treated to quite a light show, the soundtrack was provided by frogs and crickets! I may have seen some bats!

xo, hilary

Next stop… Page, Arizona!


Antelope Canyon Arizona Photo tour

Upper Antelope Canyon Page Arizona

Dear Faithful Reader,

When I first considered this trip, I knew the Antelope Canyon slot canyons would have to be on the itinerary! These canyons are easilyt one the most unqiue places I’ve ever visited, and this city girl definitely had a moment when I realized where I willingly was!

Wanting to take photos, and to enjoy the moment I opeted for two tours in one day! It was the best decission! our guide was awesome and this experience was definitely a highlight of the trip!!

xo, hilary

Next up… Horseshoe Bend!


Horseshoe Bend Page Arizona

Horseshoe Bend Page Arizona

Dear Faithful Reader,

Horseshoe Bend is the most photographed location along the Colorado River and it’s easy to see why! The view of the bend in the River from 1000 feet up is pretty magnificent!

I’ve recently learned I’m not great with extreme heights, so I wasn’t able to get all the way to the edge fro a complete view, but hopefully you get the idea!

xo, hilary

Next stop… The Grand Canyon!


The Grand Canyon Arizona

The Grand Canyon Arizona

Dear Faithful Reader,

We’ve been on the road for two weeks, and we’ve seen some pretty amazing sights!

Today was our final stop The GRAND CANYON! We visited the South Rim, where our first stop was the Desert View.

We were pretty excited to see an endangered California Condor fly over the Canyon!

xo, hilary

Next stop… HOME (via Las Vegas)!

*Tim stayed home to hold down the fort!


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Roadtrip American Southwest with Kids